Deadly gas seeps into homes

CALLS were made today for all new homes to be built with measures to resist the cancer-causing gas radon.The carcinogenic gas, which has no taste or smell, kills 2,000 people a year and is the second biggest cause of lung cancer in the UK - and affects hundreds of homes in the Suffolk Coastal area.

Richard Cornwell

CALLS were made today for all new homes to be built with measures to resist the cancer-causing gas radon.

The carcinogenic gas, which has no taste or smell, kills 2,000 people a year and is the second biggest cause of lung cancer in the UK - and affects hundreds of homes in the Suffolk Coastal area.

The district has a 225 square kilometre area, which includes Old Felixstowe, Woodbridge, Martlesham Heath, Newbourne and Hollesley, in which the gas has been found seeping into homes from the ground below with high readings in a few.

Householders can have their homes tested then put in places measures to improve ventilation.

But the Health Protection Agency (HPA) is calling for government to make changes to building regulations and standards so that all new property incorporate basic materials and measures necessary to reduce radon levels.

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HPA chairman Sir William Stewart said: “People often don't realise that their most significant exposure to radiation may be in their own home from naturally occurring radon gas.

“Modern buildings tend to have low ventilation levels for valid energy conservation reasons, but this can have the drawback of encouraging the build-up of radon gas concentrations.

“Relatively straightforward measures taken during building construction can significantly reduce radon levels and we are recommending that building regulations should be amended to ensure these measures are carried out in all new build.”

Suffolk Coastal council offers advice to residents about radon and how to have the gas measured.

A council spokesman said: “There are two types of radon areas in the Suffolk Coastal district - a 'radon affected area', where more than one per cent of homes are estimated to have levels of radon at or above the radon action level, and a 'radon protection area', where radon protection measures are required in new and altered buildings.”

People concerned could visit the council's offices to see a map of the areas affected by radon in the district.

The map had been updated late last year after information from the British Geographical Survey but had not radically changed.

The gas can be reduced by installing a small underfloor sump or a power fan. New buildings in the area are fitted with an airtight membrane across the floor and through the walls.

Have you carried out work to your home to protect it from radon? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

RADON FACTS

Radon is a naturally occurring gas which is a product of the radioactive decay of uranium found in rock, soil, brick and concrete.

Levels vary from season to season, day to day and even from hour to hour as windows and doors are opened and closed.

The level can also vary widely between identical houses and the only way to find out whether there is a high level in a particular house is to measure it. Monitoring is undertaken by having a detector over a three-month period.

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